Easter sunrise

What a blessing it was to attend an Easter Sunrise Service in the Los Altos football stadium this morning!  It was a united effort of 3 or 4 different churches.  How awesome to see such unity in the Body of Christ.  And the free tamales and hot chocolate weren’t so bad either.  =)  And starting at 5:30 in the morning, the local neighbors got to celebrate Easter a little early as well!  I’m sure they didn’t mind.

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Quiz

Take this quiz, especially if you are a history/politics/philosophy person like me!  I got 57/60.  If you beat this score (or even if you don’t), let me know and if you tie or beat me, I will honor you with a post!

It’s official: I’m old

Well, it happened.  I knew it would eventually, but did not expect it quite this soon.  Though, as I reflect on it, it’s not nearly as soon as it could have been.

We had parent conferences last night.  One of the parents of my students graduated with me from Los Altos.  She was even in my section in the entertainment unit.  I was her section leader.  So, there it is—I am officially old.

Thankfully, I remembered her.  Unfortunately, I often do not.  I have realized that I have been fairly narcissistic much of my life, and I have concluded it’s a symptom of narcissism not to remember people, because, essentially, you don’t really care about others beyond what they can do to meet your needs.  Remembering people requires one to be fairly “other-centered.” Lord, thank you for helping me see this and thank you for teaching me to genuinely love others more.  You understand that I walked through high school being nearly completely self-absorbed, and now, as a high school teacher, you have opened my eyes to the preciousness of teenagers.  In a way, it’s a second chance.  You are worthy to be praised!

BTW, I have found a blog that just cracks me up.  Hopefully no one will be offended.  As a white person, I’m allowed to laugh at this. =)   Some of my favorites stuff white people like:  assists and recycling!  Of course, they really should change the title to “stuff white liberals like.”  That’s why it’s so funny!

Giving makes you happy!

Read this!

“Personal spending was unrelated to happiness,” said the researchers. “But higher prosocial (read: charitable) spending was associated with significantly greater happiness,” they found.

Vineyard Retreat

I went on a spiritual retreat with my church this weekend.  As I’ve only been a member of my church for about 1 1/2 years, it was so good just to get to know people at a deeper level.

Something I’ve kind of known before but God has brought again to my attention: John of the Cross had a progression of love: love for pleasure’s sake, love for love’s sake, and then love for God’s sake.  Often when we first experience the love of God being poured into our hearts, it is so good we respond to it like a drug.  We crave it.  We want the pleasure.  So what does the Lord do?  He retreats, allowing us to grow up.  It’s a little bit like weaning a nursing baby.  In his temporary retreat from allowing us to sit easily in His presence, He is, in fact, paying us a great compliment:  “you are ready for the next step in walking with me.”

I think many Christians hit this phase and the enemy comes in and says, “See, it was all just an emotional high.  It’s not real!”  Little do they know that after learning what God has for them, that there are new and higher experiences of God’s love and power that await them if they press in!  When a trial hits and you don’t feel the Lord’s presence, instead of responding, “I guess I’m missing God,” ask, “God, what are your purposes in this?” And press in to Him!  God is weaning you.  He is disciplining you.  He is teaching you to grow up so that one day, you can pour your life out to Him not because of what you get in return (though this will be good), but because your whole life’s calling is to please Him and worship Him, knowing that He is worth it.

Obama, Jesus, and Paul

Sen. Obama may regret these words (full story here):

“I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other,” he said, referring to unions that grant all the legal benefits of marriage, minus the name. “I don’t think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That’s my view. But we can have a respectful disagreement on that.”

Within the Sermon on the Mount, I assume he is referencing Matt 7:1: “Judge not, lest you be judged…” Many misunderstand this passage. It does not mean we should never judge. If you continue reading, you will notice Jesus talking about helping your ‘brother remove the speck (a metaphor for sin) from his eye.’ Helping someone in this way requires a degree of judgment. Jesus himself judged others, particularly the self-righteous religious leaders. If you read Matt. 7:1 in context, it is obvious that what Jesus is saying is that we need to avoid hypocrisy and an overly-critical attitude. Large sections of the Sermon on the Mount are devoted to loving others, and for Jesus, part of loving others was to help set them free from the bondage to sin (e.g. woman at the well, woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus). It was Jesus’ love for them that led them to confront their sin, and that should be our model as well.  Obama’s suggestion that this passage should apply to the gay marriage debate will place him at odds with most Evangelicals.

I always kind of chuckle when politicians try to apply the Sermon on the Mount to government policy.  First, these are some of the most difficult passages of scripture to understand; and two, Jesus wasn’t teaching about government policy, as clearly demonstrated by his teaching to “turn the other cheek.”  Should our government turn the other cheek to criminals and tyrants?  Obviously not.  The biblical purpose of government is found in Romans 13:4, “For he [the ruler] is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”  It is the job of the church to bring God’s love to the world.  It is the job of government to protect us.

For Obama, it just gets worse–“an obscure passage in Romans.” Ouch. That will leave a mark. Many regard Romans as the preeminent book of the Bible; the grandest, most complete statement of the gospel. It is a masterpiece of theological writing. It is written by Paul, the primary communicator of the young Christian faith to the Greek and Roman world. Evangelicals, who believe that all of God’s word is inspired, will be offended by Obama’s statement. I might understand someone calling Jude, or Philemon or even possibly James obscure, but Romans!?

Obama should have said something like: “We are a nation of diverse faiths, and we will sometimes respectfully disagree on areas where values from those faiths intersect with public policy choices. As president, I would support civil unions as the government has an obligation to all its citizens to protect their equal rights, but out of respect to the historic faith traditions in our country, it should not be called marriage and I would oppose efforts to do so.” This way he could have communicated his position (which is not my position) without offending Christian believers who take the scriptures seriously. We’ll see if there is any negative fallout for him.

Jesus Film stories

In our Christian club prayer meeting the other night, I mentioned stories of the Jesus film. Here’s one:

The Man in the Clouds

Some years ago, in Asia, a young national missionary couple felt the call of God to take their 3-year-old son to a very resistant area in the North to live among the native people. They labored faithfully for many years in this notorious area known as the “graveyard of missionaries” without seeing a single person come to Christ. Their every effort to share the gospel was met with opposition, as they battled discouragement, depression, spiritual oppression and polluted water.

One day the husband walked through the door of their tiny home, collapsed and died. Distraught, his wife went to check on their sick child. He also had died. Devastated, confused, she returned to the States, with her acute loss, seemingly defeated.

A few weeks later, a “JESUS” film team arrived in that exact area. This time the government officials allowed the film to be shown. During the scene at Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, when His face first appeared on the screen, the crowd erupted with shouts and exclamations. The team had no choice but to stop the film and learn what the commotion was about. “It’s the Man!” they shouted. “He is the One we saw walking in the clouds!”*

It seemed that everyone had seen Him the day the national missionary and his son died. Clouds formed over the hillsides. The vision of a Man, larger-than-life, appeared above the clouds, walking over their hills, shedding tears. The people suspected that it was a message from God, that He was displeased that they had rejected the gospel. Now, they were being given a second chance.

As the team restarted the projector, the people settled down to continue watching the film. Everyone was transfixed by the story. Then, at the end, the majority of these hard, resistant, people put their faith in Christ! Other miracles followed. People were delivered from evil spirits. The sick were healed. The deep spiritual hunger of many was met.

But, the greater miracle is this: where once there were no Christians, there are now 46,000 believers and hundreds of growing and maturing churches! Today, they are preparing to send out their own missionaries to other unreached people, some of whom will use the “JESUS” film. The “graveyard of missionaries” has become the “vineyard of missionaries!”

*On occasion, the Holy Spirit reportedly gives a vision of the risen Christ that resembles the actor who portrays Jesus. It appears to be His way of affirming the truth of His Word to some who have seen or will see the “JESUS” film.

See more here (click on stories in the column on the right).

God is good, and powerful.

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